His Highness the Aga Khan, 49th Ismaili Imam, is a Champion of Diversity and Compassion and Inspires Millions, Says Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

His Highness the Aga Khan is greeted by Justin Trudeau as he arrives in Ottawa, Canada, to celebrate his Golden Jubilee in 2008. At that time, Mr. Trudeau was a Member of Parliament in his riding in the Province of Quebec. He won the Liberal leadership in 2011, and after winning the recent Federal Elections held in October, he was sworn in as the Prime Minister of Canada on November 4th 2015. A day earlier he visited the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat Building on Sussex Drive in Ottawa - see photo below. Photo: The Ismaili.

His Highness the Aga Khan is greeted by Justin Trudeau as he arrives in Ottawa, Canada, to celebrate his Golden Jubilee in 2008. At that time, Mr. Trudeau was a Member of Parliament in his riding in the Province of Quebec. He won the Liberal leadership in 2011, and after winning the recent Federal Elections held in October, he was sworn in as the Prime Minister of Canada on November 4th 2015. A day earlier he visited the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat Building on Sussex Drive in Ottawa – see photo below. Photo: The Ismaili.

The Prime Minister of Canada, the Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, issued the following statement on December 13, 2015, on the 79th birthday of His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan:

“Today, we celebrate the birthday of His Highness the Aga Khan, the spiritual leader of the Shia Ismaili Muslims, who has dedicated his life to the promotion of peace, pluralism, and compassion around the world.

“For over fifty years, the Aga Khan has been an inspiration to millions, working tirelessly to improve the health and education of those living in some of the world’s most vulnerable countries. As a global humanitarian leader, he has worked with many partners – including Canada – to implement vital programs that advance long-term solutions to poverty, illiteracy, and disease.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with AKDN Representative Dr. Mahmoud Eboo (left) and the President of the Aga Khan Ismaili Council for Canada, Malik Talib, at the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat in Ottawa on November 3, 2015, the day before he was sworn in as the Prime Minister. Photo: The Ismaili.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with Aga Khan Development Netork (AKDN) Representative Dr. Mahmoud Eboo (left) and the President of the Aga Khan Ismaili Council for Canada, Malik Talib, at the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat in Ottawa on November 3, 2015, a day before he was sworn in as Prime Minister. Photo: The Ismaili.

“I have seen first-hand the Aga Khan’s commitment to the ideals of diversity and inclusion. As a nation, we are proud His Highness was granted honourary Canadian citizenship for the leadership he has shown to advance development, pluralism, and tolerance – values that are at the core of our national identity.

“The world needs champions of diversity and compassion. Today, we are delighted to thank our good friend, the Aga Khan, for all that he has done to help those in need, and wish him good health, happiness, and peace on this special day.”

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“Happy Birthday to the Hazar Imam” – Yasmin Rattansi, MP Don Valley E.

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His Highness the Aga Khan, MP Yasmin Ratansi and External Affairs Minister Pierre Pettigrew (July 2004 – February 2006). Photo: Jean-Marc Carisse. Copyright.

“Mr. Speaker, I take this opportunity to thank the constituents of Don Valley East for re- electing me to Parliament.

“My riding is proud to house three architectural jewels of Toronto: the Aga Khan Museum, the lsmaili Centre, and the Aga Khan Park built in Canada by His Highness the Aga Khan with his own funds.

“On December 13, His Highness will be celebrating his 79th birthday. I rise today in the House to pay a special tribute to a remarkable human being. His tireless efforts in building bridges across the globe, his commitment to eradicating poverty and ignorance for millions of people, irrespective of race or religion, through the AKDN network are unparalleled.

“I was fortunate to have worked with His Highness in establishing the Global Centre for Pluralism here in Ottawa.

“Happy birthday to the Hazar Imam. May all who come in touch with him benefit from his integrity, humility, honesty, and courage to do good.”

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A Message and Tweets from the Premier of Ontario, Kathleen Wynne, and Arif Virani, MP Parkdale–High Park.

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Mawlana Hazar Imam graciously accepts the standing ovation he receives after completing his speech at the opening of the Aga Khan Park in Toronto on May 25, 2015. With him is the Premier of Ontario, Kathleen Wynne. Photo: Simerg/Malik Merchant. Copyright.

Premier of Ontario Kathleen Wynne Aga Khan Message

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….and a Tweet from the 2 Ismaili Mountaineers, Mirza Ali and Samina Baig, who conquered the “Seven Summits”, i.e. the highest mountain in each of the 7 continents

Date posted: December 13, 2015.
Last updated: December 14, 2015 (Message from Ontario Premier)

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“ISIL does not speak for Islam” — President Barack Obama asks Americans not to define acts of terror as a war between America and Islam

Excerpts from a rare White House Oval Office address delivered by President Barack Obama on Sunday, December 6, 2015.

President Obama

“the vast majority of terrorist victims around the world are Muslim. If we’re to succeed in defeating terrorism we must enlist Muslim communities as some of our strongest allies, rather than push them away through suspicion and hate…just as it is the responsibility of Muslims around the world to root out misguided ideas that lead to radicalization, it is the responsibility of all Americans  — of every faith —  to reject discrimination”

Good evening. On Wednesday [December 2, 2015 – ed.], 14 Americans were killed as they came together to celebrate the holidays. They were taken from family and friends who loved them deeply. They were white and black; Latino and Asian; immigrants and American-born; moms and dads; daughters and sons. Each of them served their fellow citizens and all of them were part of our American family.

“I know that after so much war, many Americans are asking whether we are confronted by a cancer that has no immediate cure….we are cooperating with Muslim-majority countries —  and with our Muslim communities here at home  — to counter the vicious ideology that ISIL promotes online.”

…The victims were brutally murdered and injured by one of their coworkers and his wife…it is clear that the two of them had gone down the dark path of radicalization, embracing a perverted interpretation of Islam that calls for war against America and the West…this was an act of terrorism, designed to kill innocent people.

President Obama

As Commander-in-Chief, I have no greater responsibility than the security of the American people. As a father to two young daughters who are the most precious part of my life, I know that we see ourselves with friends and coworkers at a holiday party like the one in San Bernardino. I know we see our kids in the faces of the young people killed in Paris. And I know that after so much war, many Americans are asking whether we are confronted by a cancer that has no immediate cure.

…Since the attacks in Paris, we’ve surged intelligence-sharing with our European allies. We’re working with Turkey to seal its border with Syria. And we are cooperating with Muslim-majority countries — and with our Muslim communities here at home — to counter the vicious ideology that ISIL promotes online.

“Muslim leaders here and around the globe have…to speak out against not just acts of violence, but also those interpretations of Islam that are incompatible with the values of religious tolerance, mutual respect, and human dignity.”

….My fellow Americans….Let me now say a word about what we should not do.

…. We cannot turn against one another by letting this fight be defined as a war between America and Islam….ISIL does not speak for Islam. They are thugs and killers, part of a cult of death, and they account for a tiny fraction of more than a billion Muslims around the world — including millions of patriotic Muslim Americans who reject their hateful ideology. Moreover, the vast majority of terrorist victims around the world are Muslim. If we’re to succeed in defeating terrorism we must enlist Muslim communities as some of our strongest allies, rather than push them away through suspicion and hate.

President Obama

That does not mean denying the fact that an extremist ideology has spread within some Muslim communities. This is a real problem that Muslims must confront, without excuse. Muslim leaders here and around the globe have to continue working with us to decisively and unequivocally reject the hateful ideology that groups like ISIL and al Qaeda promote; to speak out against not just acts of violence, but also those interpretations of Islam that are incompatible with the values of religious tolerance, mutual respect, and human dignity.

“It is our responsibility to reject religious tests on who we admit into this country. It’s our responsibility to reject proposals that Muslim Americans should somehow be treated differently. Because when we travel down that road, we lose.”

But just as it is the responsibility of Muslims around the world to root out misguided ideas that lead to radicalization, it is the responsibility of all Americans — of every faith — to reject discrimination. It is our responsibility to reject religious tests on who we admit into this country. It’s our responsibility to reject proposals that Muslim Americans should somehow be treated differently. Because when we travel down that road, we lose. That kind of divisiveness, that betrayal of our values plays into the hands of groups like ISIL. Muslim Americans are our friends and our neighbors, our co-workers, our sports heroes — and, yes, they are our men and women in uniform who are willing to die in defense of our country. We have to remember that.

“…no matter who you are, or where you come from, or what you look like, or what religion you practice, you are equal in the eyes of God and equal in the eyes of the law.”

My fellow Americans, I am confident we will succeed in this mission because we are on the right side of history. We were founded upon a belief in human dignity — that no matter who you are, or where you come from, or what you look like, or what religion you practice, you are equal in the eyes of God and equal in the eyes of the law.

President Obama

Let’s not forget that freedom is more powerful than fear; that we have always met challenges — whether war or depression, natural disasters or terrorist attacks — by coming together around our common ideals as one nation, as one people. So long as we stay true to that tradition, I have no doubt America will prevail.

Thank you. God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America.

Date posted: December 7, 2015.

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To watch and read the full transcript of President Obama’s speech please visit The White House.

Aldous Huxley’s Expression “Man’s Inhumanity to Man” and its Relevance to Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan’s Messages on the Refugee Crisis

Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan (1933 - 2003). Photo: Wikipedia Commons.

Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan (1933 – 2003). Photo: Wikipedia Commons.

Excerpts from a selection of statements, interviews and speeches that the late Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan gave when he was the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Links to a fuller version of this article as well as all his UNHCR speeches and statements are provided below. Please also read our earlier post (1) His Highness the Aga Khan visits UNHCR and (2) UN material related to his uncle, Prince Sadruddin, whose name became synonymous with UNHCR,

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“What is wealth without wisdom, or development without freedom? Every day selfishness, intolerance, lack of understanding and discrimination continue to add tragic pages to the history of our time.”

The late Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan with Secretary-General U Thant at his home on 23 June 1971. Photo: Teddy Chan, United Nations.

The late Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan with Secretary-General U Thant at his home on 23 June 1971. Photo: Teddy Chan, United Nations.

 “When I was watching television during the tremendous Apollo experience recently and saw the world as a tiny sphere, it seemed incredible that, after so many years, it had not learned to live in peace, that men were still fighting, perpetrating injustice, committing crimes against humanity and persecuting individuals. It is, as I say, incredible that despite all the tremendous progress which has been achieved, men still resort to violence instead of to mediation and dialogue, within or outside the United Nations, and that this violence should produce refugees.”

“This century has been greatly guilty in its disrespect for the inalienable rights of man. None know this better than the millions of refugees, the unfortunate human beings who have been forced to seek safety outside their own country because of persecution and intolerance.”

“It is just as important to translate the articles inscribed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights into everyday practice as it is to spread science and knowledge or to build dams and create new sources of power. For what is wealth without wisdom, or development without freedom?

“All nations desire peace, progress and justice – yet every day selfishness, intolerance, lack of understanding and discrimination continue to add tragic pages to the history of our time. Indeed, this century has been greatly guilty in its disrespect for the inalienable rights of man. None know this better than the millions of refugees, the unfortunate human beings who have been forced to seek safety outside their own country because of persecution and intolerance. How were they received? The nations were not always generous towards refugees, and in the past untold tragedies sometimes followed the arrival in countries of asylum.

“If there were to be more tolerance and more justice and more respect for the basic rights of human beings everywhere, there would be fewer problems of refugees in the world.”

The Canadian Tribute to Human Rights Monument in the Nelson Mandela Square on Elgin Street in Ottawa. It bears an inscription from the 1st article of the Universal Declaration of Human Riights which states that All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.

The Canadian Human Rights Monument at Nelson Mandela Square on Elgin Street in Ottawa which bears the inscription “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” This is part of Article 1 of the Declaration of Human Rights which goes on to state that we are all endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in the spirit of brotherhood. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

“And what about the causes of refugee movements? Have they disappeared today? When asking myself this question I have in mind that persecution does not always take the extreme form of threatening life and liberty: it is also persecution when a person is hindered in the exercise of his economic activity because he belongs to a particular social groups or confesses to a particular religion or because of his ethnic origins; or when for the same reasons a group of individuals is segregated in crowded and unhealthy areas; or when parents are prevented from bringing up their children in accordance with their wishes.

“The resulting picture is a dark and wide canvas of human suffering that covers nearly all continents of our planet.”

Refugee children from Syria at a clinic in Ramtha, northern Jordan. Photo: Wikipedia.

Refugee children from Syria at a clinic in Ramtha, northern Jordan. Photo: Wikipedia.

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Confined to the wheelchair and blind in both eyes, the only important thing that Alia, below, brought with her ‘is my soul, nothing more – nothing material.’

Alia sits in her wheelchair in Domiz refugee camp in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. The 24-year-old was living with her family in Daraa, Syria, when fighting forced them to flee their home. Confined to the wheelchair and blind in both eyes, Alia says she was terrified by what was happening around her. 'Men in uniforms came and killed our cow. They fought outside our house and there were many dead soldiers. I cried and cried,' she says. Alia says the only important thing that she brought with her 'is my soul, nothing more – nothing material.' When asked about her wheelchair, she seems surprised, saying she considers it an extension of her body, not an object. Photo UNHCR/B.Sokol. Copyright.

Alia sits in her wheelchair in Domiz refugee camp in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. The 24-year-old was living with her family in Daraa, Syria, when fighting forced them to flee their home. Confined to the wheelchair and blind in both eyes, Alia says she was terrified by what was happening around her. ‘Men in uniforms came and killed our cow. They fought outside our house and there were many dead soldiers. I cried and cried,’ she says. Alia says the only important thing that she brought with her ‘is my soul, nothing more – nothing material.’ When asked about her wheelchair, she seems surprised, saying she considers it an extension of her body, not an object. Photo UNHCR/B.Sokol. Copyright.

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Ten-day-old Hawler is held by her mother, a Syrian Kurd who named her after a region in Kurdistan. The family's makeshift campsite in the park is situated next to a mosquite ridden pool of water. Photo: UNHCR/S. Baldwin. Copyright.

Ten-day-old Hawler is held by her mother, a Syrian Kurd who named her after a region in Kurdistan. The family’s makeshift campsite in the park is situated next to a mosquite ridden pool of water. Photo: UNHCR/S. Baldwin. Copyright.

“Here one is forced to admit that the causes of refugee problems are not diminishing, particularly when we remember that people also become refugees because of enmity between groups of different ethnic origin, or different religions, living in the same land; intolerance and hatred which create such tensions and personal conflicts that normal life for members of one of the groups becomes almost impossible and causes them to seek safety elsewhere. We must also remember the refugees who flee the repression and disturbances which accompany struggles for civic rights or national independence in several parts of the world. The resulting picture is a dark and wide canvas of human suffering that covers nearly all continents of our planet.

“We can only hope that gatherings such as this will bring the time nearer when Man will no longer have to fear what Aldous Huxley so well expressed as ‘Man’s inhumanity to Man’.”

UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Sadruddin Aga Khan, and Abel Alier, President of the Provisional High Executive council of the South Sudan visit the village of Kajo Kaji, South Sudan. Photo Credit: UN Photo/1972

UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Sadruddin Aga Khan, and Abel Alier, President of the Provisional High Executive council of the South Sudan visit the village of Kajo Kaji, South Sudan. Photo Credit: UN Photo/1972

“There is no doubt that, if there were to be more tolerance and more justice and more respect for the basic rights of human beings everywhere, there would be fewer problems of refugees in the world. But the day when we shall not have to think of refugees, unfortunately, would still appear to be far off; we can only hope that gatherings such as this will bring the time nearer when Man will no longer have to fear what Aldous Huxley so well expressed as ‘Man’s inhumanity to Man’.”

Date posted: November 7, 2015.

Please also see our post published earlier today, (1) His Highness the Aga Khan visits UNHCR and (2) UN material related to his uncle, Prince Sadruddin, whose name became synonymous with UNHCR

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For a full version of this article, please click Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan: Some of the Causes for the Refugee Crisis – Injustice, Intolerance and Lack of Respect for Human Rights.

Speech excerpts compiled from UNHCR. Please click Speeches by Prince Sadruddin.

(1) His Highness the Aga Khan visits UNHCR and (2) UN material related to his uncle, Prince Sadruddin, whose name became synonymous with UNHCR

“We must do everything possible to prevent human suffering”

His Highness the Aga Khan with UNHCR chief Antonio Guterres at UNHCR Headquarters. Photo: The Ismaili.

His Highness the Aga Khan with UNHCR chief Antonio Guterres at UNHCR Headquarters. Photo: The Ismaili.

His Highness the Aga Khan visited the UNHCR headquarters on November 6, 2015 to meet UN High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, and discuss past and future cooperation in emergency operations around the world. His Highness is the 49th hereditary Imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims and nephew of the late Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan, who was high commissioner for refugees from 1965-77, a pivotal period in the organization’s history.

His Highness was greeted by UNHCR staff before he held private talks with the High Commissioner  followed by a meeting with senior UNHCR officials on the long-standing partnership between the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) and the UN refugee agency.

The two sides looked at ways of further strengthening their partnership in the Middle East, Asia and East Africa. They discussed possible new joint initiatives in areas such as contingency planning; pluralism and diverse societies; and country specific cooperation in areas where AKDN is active as well as global advocacy to bridge the humanitarian-development divide.

They also discussed the global political situation and the effects of extremism and sectarianism on previously tolerant and diverse societies.

“We must do everything possible to prevent human suffering,” said the Aga Khan. “But preempting humanitarian emergencies requires investments, equipment and the necessary resources to ensure the response system is already in place when the crisis hits.”

The High Commissioner agreed, noting that “UNHCR and the Aga Khan Development Network have a lot in common. It is partnerships like ours that can help broaden the way the international community responds to crises today through a stronger humanitarian-development link, and by promoting closer cooperation with actors from different cultural and geographical backgrounds.”

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Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan
“AN EXCEPTIONAL MAN”

Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan (1933 - 2003). Photo: UNesco Courier. Copyright

Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan (1933 – 2003). Photo: Unesco Courier. Copyright

Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan, uncle of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, led the UN refugee agency during 12 years in the 1960s and 1970s, leaving an indelible print on UNHCR’s history. He led the agency through some of the most challenging moments, and his name became synonymous with UNHCR.

Prince Sadruddin became High Commissioner in January of 1966 at the age of 33 the youngest person ever to lead UNHCR. Prior to becoming High Commissioner, he served for three years as Deputy High Commissioner. He was at the helm of the UN refugee agency during one of its most difficult periods. This included the 1971 the Bangladesh crisis, which uprooted 10 million people, the 1972 exodus of hundreds of thousands of Hutus from Burundi to Tanzania and the Indochinese boat people tragedy of the mid-1970s. In 1972, Prince Sadruddin played a key role in finding new homes for tens of thousands of South Asians expelled from Uganda by Idi Amin.

Prince Sadruddin’s entire adult life was devoted to humanitarian work. After leaving UNHCR at the end of 1977 at his own request, he served in various capacities, dealing with humanitarian situations in many parts of the world on behalf of the United Nations. These included Afghanistan and Iraq during the first Gulf war. He was also a trustee of a number of charity organisations. He published several books and received numerous national and international decorations, including the French Légion d’honneur and the United Nations Human Rights Award.

Simerg has come across many pieces of letters and documents on Prince Sadruddin in the UN archives, and we reproduce two below that serve as reminders of his priceless services to the United Nations.

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[I] EXTENSION OF APPOINTMENT LETTER

“This extension…constitutes a new fixed term appointment on a $1 a year basis…” 

Please click on image for enlargement

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Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan Extension of Appointment

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[2]  “AN EXCEPTIONAL MAN”

“Prince Sadruddin was a statesman in the truest sense of the word. By focusing on the protection of refugees, he represented the moral and compassionate side of the international community…He worked on behalf of the poor and dispossessed, while celebrating humanity through culture and art…”

Please click on image for enlargement

Kofi Annan Message for Prince Sadruddin Aga KhanDate posted: Saturday, November 7, 2015.

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We welcome your feedback, please click Leave a comment.

Credits:

  1. Report of His Highness Aga Khan’s visit to UNHCR and Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan’s profile compiled and adapted from the website of http://www.unhcr.org.
  2. United Nations Archives at https://archives.un.org/

Please also see the following articles on Prince Sadruddin posted on this website:

His Highness the Aga Khan on Lake Sarez: Mitigating a Catastrophic Risk if the Lake’s Natural Dam Would Break

LAKE SAREZ NASA IMAGE

Please click on image for enlargement

Lake Sarez in the Pamirs of TajikistanLake Sarez, deep in the Pamir mountains of Tajikistan, was created 90 years ago when a strong earthquake triggered a massive landslide that, in turn, became a huge dam along the Murghob River, now called the Usoi Dam. The resulting lake is perched above surrounding drainages at an elevation greater than 3000m, and is part of the watershed that drains the towering Akademi Nauk Range (see the regional image, below). The lake is 61 km long and as deep as 500 m, and holds an estimated 17 cubic km of water. The area experiences considerable seismic activity, and scientists fear that part of the right bank may slump into the lake, creating a huge wave that will top over and possibly breach the natural dam. Such a wave would create a catastrophic flood downstream along the Bartang, Panj and Amu Darya Rivers, perhaps reaching all the way to the Aral Sea. Currently, central Asian governments, as well as the World Bank and the UN are monitoring the dam closely, and have proposed gradually lowering the lake level as a preventive measure. Image: NASA Earth Observatory; digital photograph  was taken in the spring of 2001 from Space Station Alpha and is provided by the Earth Sciences and Image Analysis Laboratory at Johnson Space Center.

REMARKS BY HIS HIGHNESS THE AGA KHAN

“…From a global perspective, it is here, in Central Asia, that one of the most unusual water situations exists. I am referring to Lake Sarez. It is some 60 kilometres in length, containing some 17 cubic kilometres of water, is at 3200 meters altitude and has a natural dam of 550 meters, the highest of any dam in the world. For years it has been seen as a major hazard to millions of lives in this country [Tajkistan] and in Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan. It is clear that if the rock dam, caused by an enormous landslide following an earthquake in 1911, were to break as a result of another such event; or if another earthquake were to cause landslides to fall into the lake, raising the level of the water and causing a massive spill across the top of the dam, the consequence would be a major catastrophe. It is estimated that 5 million lives could be at risk. Fear of this happening has dominated the thinking of government officials and the population living in the area around and below Lake Sarez for years.

Lake Sarez

“More recently the World Bank, the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), USAID and the Swiss Government have expended time, thought and resources to develop a credible protective response that can alert downstream populations as quickly as possible. In simple terms, this is risk management. The question I wish to raise today is whether we are not perhaps also facing a question of opportunity management. Thousands of cubic meters of consumable water are trapped at high altitude. Is this not a situation which could be turned into a force for development, rather than a threat of tragedy? Studies are presently underway to test this idea, in particular in regard to the use of the Sarez Lake waters for hydro energy and irrigation for the area they now threaten, and probably much more. Any wisdom that this conference could bring to bear on these issues would be an extremely valuable outcome…” — Excerpts from a speech made by His Highness the Aga Khan, 49th hereditary Ismaili Imam, at the Dushanbe Fresh Water Forum (Dushanbe, Tajikistan), August 30, 2003.

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ACTION TAKEN

In 2004, a special satellite equipment and early warning system for monitoring the situation around Lake Sarez was installed by a World Bank project working on risk mitigation in the area, a step to ensure early warning for the vulnerable population in the region.

According to an interview with IRIN (Humanitarian News and Analysis), Rustam Bobojonov, a coordinator of the project said that “the equipment is for monitoring the situation around Lake Sarez, the dam and the Bartang valley, including seismic activity, landslides, water, wind speed and so on. It is aimed at ensuring early warning for the Tajik government, including the emergency ministry, international community and the residents of all the villages in the Bartang Valley about the possible risk.”

The total cost of the project was at US$4.5 million out of which the Aga Khan Foundation contributed US$1, with the Swiss Government providing another US$2.9 million.

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Background Article

“…Below the Usoi dam there are more than 30 small villages in the Bartang Valley, with a total population of about 7,000 mountain Ismaili people. Most villages (kishlaks) are sited on alluvial cones near to the river and use all available gently sloping land. Many of the villages are subject to floods, landslides, mudflows, and avalanches annually…”

TAJIKISTAN: LAKE SAREZ AND THE PAMIR MOUNTAINS

Please click on map for enlargement.

FAO Map Tajikistan and Lake SarezPlease click on map for enlargement. This map has been adapted from the original map produced on the website of FAO.

(Map shown above and the following article have been adapted from the website of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, FAO, see link below)

Lake Sarez, high in the Pamir Mountains is close to 3,000 m above sea level and its location is one of the most remote in the world. It formed following a very large landslide, set off by an earthquake in the winter of 1911. The landslide, with a volume of some 2-3 km3 , plunged down a mountain side to form a dam between 500 and 600 metres in height and two kilometres wide to block the Murgab River. This river is a tributary of the Bartang River which, below the confluence with the Murgab, flows for 120 km through a gigantic mountain gorge to join the Pianj River, itself a tributary of the Amu Darya. The Amu Darya is one of the two major rivers that drains into the Aral Sea 2,000 km below the dam site. The Pianj and Amu Darya rivers form part of the frontier between Tajikistan and Afghanistan and further downstream their combined waters flow through Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. The fallen mass of rock and earth was named the Usoi Dam after the village that it completely annihilated. The dammed waters of the Murgab River produced Lake Sarez, named for a village that was submerged by the rising waters. Initially, the level of the lake rose at a rate of about 75 metres a year.

Today it is more than 60 km in length and has a maximum depth in excess of 500 metres. Its total volume is about 17 km3. The lake surface is close to 3,200 m above sea level and surrounded by peaks rising to more than 6,000 m. The Usoi dam is the highest dam, natural or man-made, in the world. Set in the heart of the Pamir Mountains, the lake itself and its surroundings form a magnificent mountain landscape.

It is also located in a region that has been central to major political and military tensions for more than 200 years. During the 19th and early 20th centuries the three rival empires, Czarist Russia, Great Britain, and China competed on a gigantic and heroic scale that became known, following the writing of Rudyard Kipling, as the ‘Great Game’. Much earlier a main branch of the Silk Road passed through the Pamir and carried Marco Polo and his uncles to the court of Kublai Khan. The present republics of Central Asia were moulded by Soviet Russia from a series of Khanates, together with territories of no clear political allegiance. Currently, with a massively disturbed Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kashmir, and India, all virtually within walking distance, and with Iran, Iraq, and Turkey as neighbours with more than a passing interest, political instability may seem the order of the day. The Pamir Mountains, in general, represent one of the most active seismic regions on the world’s geophysical map.

Lake Sarez, therefore, is a focal point for a great amount of concern. A disaster of significant proportions could be triggered in several ways. A major earthquake could shatter the Usoi dam and send an enormous flood wave down the Bartang Valley and into the Pianj and Amu Darya rivers; the dam could collapse under the pressure of the water as the lake continues to rise; the piping of water through the dam, which is occurring today, could enlarge and cause the dam to collapse; or collapse could be induced by the continued rise of the lake level and eventually over-topping it. Finally, another large landslide, caused either by an earthquake, or the spontaneous failure of the mountain wall above the lake, could fall into the lake and generate a giant wave to over-top the dam. Even if the dam was not broken by such a wave, the wall of water rushing down the Bartang Valley could set off fast moving mudflows and trigger secondary landslides by under-cutting the talus slopes along the valley sides. This could be sufficient to eliminate all the thirty villages in the valley, and even more as the disturbance entered the Pianj Valley.

It has been estimated that, in the worst case, the lives of five million people could be affected. Furthermore, the torrential flood waters could extend as far downstream as the Aral Sea itself, with the additional danger of disturbing the toxic sediments that have been exposed as the sea has dried up.

The problem is rendered the more complex by a number of other factors. The vicinity of Lake Sarez is extremely remote and physical access along the Bartang Valley is a challenge. The final approach to the dam involves a difficult ascent on foot along steep mountain slopes, with a gain in altitude of more than 1,000 metres. This would render road construction, if heavy equipment would be needed, extremely expensive and technically difficult to maintain. The regional approach also constitutes a challenge; there are two main roads into the upper Pianj Valley and Khorog, the regional capital. One of these is very long and involves transit through a small part of the territories of Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan and a high altitude section (above 4,000 m) across the Pamir Plateau. The other, more direct, requires passage of the Pianj gorge, with very unstable slopes and a narrow road bed subject to rockfall, mudflow, landslide, and avalanche. Both roads are closed by heavy snow for several months of the year. The difficulty of access alone would appear to eliminate large-scale engineering solutions, such as reinforcing the dam artificially, or attempting a controlled partial drainage and lowering of the lake level.

Lake Sarea and the Usoi Dam

The naturally formed Usoi dam separates the Sarez (right) and Shadau (left) lakes. Photo: Wikipedia.

Below the Usoi dam there are more than 30 small villages in the Bartang Valley, with a total population of about 7,000 mountain Ismaili people. Most villages (kishlaks) are sited on alluvial cones near to the river and use all available gently sloping land. Many of the villages are subject to floods, landslides, mudflows, and avalanches annually; while these natural hazards are individually of small magnitude, compared to that posed by a potential failure of the Usoi dam, they are frequent in occurrence and constantly restrict access to the valley and would constrain any needed evacuation. Any landslide-induced flood wave capable of over-topping the dam would place all or most of the villages at risk. Soviet and Tajik scientists became aware of the threat posed by Lake Sarez some decades ago. Early warning and lake-level monitoring systems were established. The warning signals, however, were only directed to Moscow and Dushanbe. Thus, in the event of a medium- or large-scale flood, any secondary warning to reach the Bartang villages from either Moscow or Dushanbe would likely arrive after the event, if at all. With the collapse of the USSR even this approach to early warning and lake-level monitoring ended.

Then followed the civil war of 1992-1997 when the problem of Lake Sarez was put aside. Over the last three years, the dangers posed by Lake Sarez have begun to be taken seriously. Various reconnaissance visits have been made to the lake and dam and to the Bartang Valley. Several high-level planning meetings have been held: in Dushanbe, Geneva, and Washington, DC. The involved Asian republics, and especially Tajikistan, appear to favour a development approach based on the assumption that the worst case scenario (total collapse of the Usoi dam) was credible. A major investigation was mounted during June 1999. This was financed primarily by the World Bank, with additional support from the UN disaster relief organization, Focus Humanitarian Assistance (one of the Aga Khan family of organizations), and the government of Tajikistan. An international group of engineers, geophysicists, geologists, and geographers visited Lake Sarez and examined all the approach routes. There was unanimous agreement that the prospect of a worst case scenario was sufficiently remote that it should be accorded a low level of priority. However, there was strong support for installation of monitoring and early warning systems. Unlike the earlier Soviet approach, the new approach would relate to all the villages in the Bartang Valley and ensure the direct input of the local people. Concurrently, it was recommended that computer mapping and simulation of the potential impacts of various levels of natural disaster be undertaken. It was also pointed out that further, and much more detailed, studies should be undertaken of the cultural and socioeconomic situation of the local people. Sites for safe havens should be located and equipped, and a full accounting made of the attitudes of the local people toward the various levels of possible danger. One additional, and very important point, is that steps should be taken to ensure that the likelihood of actual large-scale disaster (worst case scenario) not be over-stated, so that the risk of any government-ordered forced evacuation of the Bartang Valley could be avoided. By February 2000 it appeared that, under the leadership of the World Bank and with contributions from several major donors, the recommendations of the June 1999 reconnaissance team were to be acted upon (United Nations, 2000). A year later, at time of this writing, significant planning progress has been made. Thus, the case of Lake Sarez, while representing one of the largest ever potential disasters based upon a natural situation in a high mountain region, embraces many complex inter-relations between highlands and lowlands. Ultimately, the challenging task of seeking collaboration amongst several independent countries on the use and management of a large international river, the Amu Darya and its headstreams, will have to be faced. Given the international rivalries prevailing in the region, this might well be the single most difficult task. Nevertheless, while the magnitude of the problems emanating from the potential instability of Lake Sarez may be an order of magnitude, or more, higher than other mountain hazards in the same region, their identification, evaluation, and treatment should provide a formula for ways in which other hazardous situations could be approached.

Date posted: October 31, 2015.

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Credits:

  1. For complete speech of His Highness the Aga Khan, please visit http://www.akdn.org.
  2. Please visit http://www.nasa.gov for images of Lake Sarez
  3. For complete background article, please visit http://www.fao.org and enter Lake Sarez in the search box.

Aleppo and Its Majestic Citadel: Chilling Reports from the Current Civil War, and 14th Century Narratives by Ibn Batutta

I. THE HARSH REALITIES OF ALEPPO TODAY

(A). Syria’s Most War-Torn City by Newsweek Magazine

(Note: Newsweek’s story, accessible by clicking on the first image shown below, contain graphic images and may disturb some readers. Discretion is advised).

“Longer even than the journey from Damascus to Aleppo is the time it takes to get from one end of Aleppo to the other. Moving from the east to the western side of the city once took only a short bus ride. Now it involves navigating a labyrinth of side roads and as many as 20 checkpoints; an endurance test that can last between 10 and 16 hours” — James Harkin for Newsweek, August 19, 2015. Please click on Newsweek – Syria’s War Torn City or click on image below for Harkin’s full report.

A sergeant in Lewa Salaheddin, a Kurdish battalion of the Free Syrian Army, sits in front of a block of destroyed buildings in Aleppo, Syria on December 6, 2012. It’s more than three years since the fight for Aleppo began. By late 2012, parts of the city were already in ruins. Patrick Tombola/laif/Redux

A sergeant in Lewa Salaheddin, a Kurdish battalion of the Free Syrian Army, sits in front of a block of destroyed buildings in Aleppo, Syria on December 6, 2012. It’s more than three years since the fight for Aleppo began. By late 2012, parts of the city were already in ruins. Patrick Tombola/laif/Redux

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(B). A Resident’s Account of Aleppo’s Humanitarian Crisis and the Fear for its Historic Citadel

Editor’s note: The following excerpts are from the website of the Centre for Research and Globalization based in Montreal. For a full account published on July 25, 2015, please click on Global Research – Aleppo’s Humanitarian Crisis.

“Aleppo city has shrunk to a fifth of its original site. I walk everyday in the city. I see children and girls without limbs because of a mortar over here or shrapnel over there that hit them randomly and caused them a terrible wounds and horrific memories that will never leave them. The girl who lost one leg is standing on her good leg and selling bread, while the little boy who lost one arm is selling chewing gum. Those are the “injured” people who come in the news, just numbers in one line of a report, after each attack from the terrorists. “Injured” doesn’t mean scratched or having a bleeding finger; it means someone lost his eyes or her limbs.”

continued…

Aleppo and its castle from South West. Created/Published between 1898 and 1946. Photo: USA Library of Congress Collection, Gift Episcopal Home; 1978.

Aleppo and its castle from South West. Photo taken in 1898, and created/published
between 1898 and 1946. Photo: USA Library of Congress Collection, Washington, D.C.

“The last symbol left of Aleppo, is the most famous one: the Citadel. I can see part of it from our balcony, but I can see it more clearly from the roof of the building….It has been badly injured, but it’s still there, dominating the city skyline. It’s where they found the Storm God’s Temple a few years ago. It withstood many invaders, including the Mongols and Crusaders. It has been damaged severely several times through history, but it has been rebuilt over and over again, as an immortal symbol to the inhabitants of one of the oldest living cities in history. I just pray I don’t live to witness its total destruction as I have seen happen to many of the surrounding buildings.”

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II. IBN BATUTTA’S 14TH CENTURY DESCRIPTION OF ALEPPO AND ITS CITADEL

The Citadel of Aleppo is a large medieval fortified palace in the centre of the old city of Aleppo, northern Syria. It is considered to be one of the oldest and largest castles in the world. Usage of the Citadel hill dates back at least to the middle of the 3rd millennium BC. Subsequently occupied by many civilizations including the Greeks, Byzantines, Ayyubids and Mamluks, the majority of the construction as it stands today is thought to originate from the Ayyubid period. An extensive conservation work has taken place in the 2000s by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture in collaboration with Aleppo Archeological Society. Dominating the city, the Citadel is part of the Ancient City of Aleppo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1986. The Citadel has received significant damage in the ongoing Syrian Civil War. Photo and caption: Wikipedia.

The Citadel of Aleppo is a large medieval fortified palace in the centre of the old city of Aleppo, northern Syria. It is considered to be one of the oldest and largest castles in the world. Usage of the Citadel hill dates back at least to the middle of the 3rd millennium BC. Subsequently occupied by many civilizations including the Greeks, Byzantines, Ayyubids and Mamluks, the majority of the construction as it stands today is thought to originate from the Ayyubid period. An extensive conservation work has taken place in the 2000s by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture in collaboration with Aleppo Archeological Society. Dominating the city, the Citadel is part of the Ancient City of Aleppo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1986. The Citadel has received significant damage in the ongoing Syrian Civil War. Photo and caption: Wikipedia.

An Introduction to Ibn Batutta

“No intelligent man,” wrote Ibn Djuzayy, the scribe to whom Ibn Batutta (also Batutah etc) dictated his memoirs, “can fail to see that this sheikh is the traveller of the age.” But Ibn Batutah (1304-1368 or 1377) was not only the greatest Arab traveller of the Middle Ages, he was one of the greatest travellers of all time. At the age of twenty-one, he set out from his birthplace, Tangiers (Morocco), and started his travels by undertaking the pilgrimage to Mecca. This was the start of thirty years of wandering during which he would travel almost 120,000 kilometres that would take him halfway round the world as far as China. His account of his travels (the Rihla), in addition to its literary value, gives a panoramic picture of the 14th-century world.

If there are historical inaccuracies in Ibn Battuta’s writings, they are largely attributable to the pronounced taste for the bizarre which was characteristic of the age, and to the loss of his notebooks during a pirate attack in the Indian Ocean.

But errors or exaggerations do not detract from the value of Ibn Battuta’s narrative which is written in a direct, straightforward style punctuated by observations which are not without humour. His entertaining story has been translated, wholly or in part, into some 15 languages and ranks among the masterpieces of Arabic literature.

Ibn Batutta on Aleppo and Its Citadel

From Sermin we proceeded to Haleb (Aleppo), a large city and splendid metropolis. This is how Abulhossein the son of Jobeir described it:

“This city is of enormous worth and its fame will last forever. Kings have often sought to possess it and men have been impressed by its importance. What a number of battles it has provoked, and what a quantity of shining words have been unsheathed for it! Its fortress is renowned for its power and its height is clearly to be seen. No one dared attack it because of its strength, or if they did they did not conquer it.

“The sides are of freestone and its proportions are full of symmetry. It has outlasted the days and the years and has seen nobles and beggars carried to their last resting-places. Where are the Hamdanite princes and their poets now? They are no more, and only the buildings remain. Oh wonderful city! It endures, but its owners have passed on. They have perished but its hour has not come. It was sought for after them and taken without great difficulty. It was coveted and won at the smallest cost.

Such is this city of Aleppo. How many of its kings has it not changed into a past tense (expression borrowed from grammar) and how many vicissitudes has it not defied because of its position! Its name was made in the feminine gender, it was adorned with the finery of a chaste virgin, it succumbed to the victor as others have done. It shone like a young bride after the sword (seif) of its dynasty, Ibn Hamdan (a reference to Prince Seif eddaoulah).

Alas! its youth will pass, it will be no longer desired, only a short while and it will be destroyed.”

continued….

Aleppo from castle. Photo taken in 1898, created/published between 1898 and 1946. Credit: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, D.C.

Aleppo from castle. Photo taken in 1898, created/published between 1898 and 1946. Credit: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, D.C.

The fortress of Aleppo is called Ash shahba (the grey one). Within it there are two wells from which water gushes, and there is no fear of thirst there. The castle is surrounded by two walls, there is a great moat from which water rises, and its wall has many towers standing close together. This fortress encloses marvellous chambers pierced with windows. All the towers are occupied and in this fortified castle food is not impaired by the passage of time.

There is a sanctuary which is visited by many people, and it is said that Abraham prayed there to God. This fortress resembles the one called Rahbet (square of) Malik Ibn Thaouk, near the Euphrates, between Syria and Iraq. When the Tartar tyrant Kazan marched against the city of Aleppo, he besieged this fortress for many days. Then, frustrated in his desire to take it, he withdrew. Ibn Jozay says: Alkhalidy, the poet of Seif eddaoulah, writes as follows about this fortress:

“With its high belfry and invincible flanks, it is a vast, grim place which rises up against him who would take it.

“The atmosphere spreads a layer of cloud over this place and adorns the castle with a necklace of brilliant stars.

“When lightning flashes in the night this fortress appears through its interstices, shining like the constellation of the Virgo through the openings in the clouds.

“How many armies has this castle not destroyed and how many conquerors has it not put to flight!”

The same poet also speaks of the castle in the following admirable verses:

“It is a citadel whose base embraces the springs of water, and its summit is higher  than Orion’s Belt.

“It knows no rain, because for it the clouds are a ground,  whose sides are trodden by its cattle.

“When the cloud has given water in abundance, he who lives in the fortress uses all the water in his tanks before its summits are moistened.

“Its belvedere would be counted amongst the stars of the heavens if it passed through their orbits.

“The cunning of this fortress has repulsed the tricks of its enemies and the evils it caused were greater than theirs.”

Here is what Jemal eddin Ali, the son of Abulmansur, has to say about this castle:

“Because of its enormous height and the point which its summit attains, this castle nearly stops the celestial sphere that turns around the earth.

“Its inhabitants have gone to the Milky Way as to a watering place and their horses have nibbled the stars as though grazing on flowering plants.

“The vicissitudes of time turn from it in fear, and for this castle there is no change.”

Date posted: August 22, 2015.

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Editor’s note: The above introduction to Ibn Batutta and his narratives on Aleppo and its Citadel have been adapted from the January 1986 issue of The Unesco Courier which was dedicated to Treasures of World Literature. Please visit http://www.unesco.org/new/en/unesco-courier/.

We welcome your feedback. Please click on Leave a comment.

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FORTHCOMING PHOTO AND LITERARY PIECES ON SIMERGPHOTOS AND SIMERG

  • “Prayer Halls of Badakhshan Through the Lens of Muslim Harji,” to be published week of August 24th, 2015 on Simerg’s photo blog, http://www.simergphotos.com
  • “Naklanki Geeta – Quantum Mechanics in Ginans” by Shiraz Pradhan, to be published week of September 7th, 2015 on this website, http://www.simerg.com.

Coming Soon: Priceless Memories of Badakhshan Through the Lens of Muslim Harji

LETTER FROM PUBLISHER

Simerg's Merchant

By Abdulmalik Merchant

Muslim Harji, a regular contributor to this website and its sister blog, Simergphotos, says that his recent visit to Central Asia with his wife Nevin was the best trip of his life, surpassing the jouney he had made to Iran some time ago. His visit to Badakhshan, in particular, has resulted in a perfect blend of  photos which capture the region’s extraordinary landscapes as well as the wonderful spirit of the Ismailis, who have inhabited the Pamirs for centuries.

Upon arriving at the village of Rushan, we were greeted by children singing the

Upon arriving at the village of Rushan, we were greeted by children singing the “Khushamudin song” — a welcome song. We were then escorted into the home of the Ismaili village elder. Photo: Muslim Harji. Copyright.

The inspiring life moments that Muslim and Nevin experienced in Badakhshan will be treasured by them for their entire lives, because the “priceless memories will never come again.”

While we prepare Harji’s Badakhshan photo essay for publication later this week, we invite you to review Through the Lens of Muslim Harji, a page specifically dedicated to Muslim. It gives the links to his pieces published on Simerg/Simergphotos.

Muslim has established himself as a powerful photographer. The hundreds of complimentary letters that readers have submitted in response to his photo essays as well as the many thousands who have visited Simerg to view his photographs bear a true testimony to Harji’s extraordinary talents with his lens.

We look forward to continuing the remarkable friendship that we have forged with Muslim Harji, and thank him for his support.

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Update June 13, 2015: Please see Muslim Harji’s piece via The Ismailis of Badakhshan Through the Lens of Muslim Harji

Leaders and Communities Extend Condolences to His Highness the Aga Khan and His Ismaili Followers as Mass Funeral is Held in Karachi for Terror Victims

KARACHI, PAKISTAN - MAY 13: Relatives of injured and killed cry and wait outside a hospital following a gun attack on a bus carrying members of Ismaili Shia community, in Karachi, Pakistan, 13 May 2015 that killed at least 45 people including over a dozen women and injuring more than 14 people. (Photo by Sabir Mazhar/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

KARACHI, PAKISTAN – MAY 13: Relatives of injured and killed cry and wait outside a hospital following a gun attack on a bus carrying members of Ismaili Shia community, in Karachi, Pakistan, 13 May 2015 that killed at least 45 people including over a dozen women and injuring more than 14 people. (Photo by Sabir Mazhar/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

A genuine outpouring of sympathy has been extended to His Highness the Aga Khan and his followers after the gun attack on a bus in Karachi on May 13, 2015 in which 43 Ismailis were killed at point black range. Two more people died later in a hospital from injuries they suffered. An Associated Press report published in both the Washington Post and The Miami Herald (Karachi Mass Funeral) states that Pakistan was observing a day of national mourning, and state-run television was broadcasting live footage, showing mourners attending the last rituals for the victims of Wednesday’s assault. Forty-three of the victims were laid to rest in a mass funeral on Thursday, one was buried earlier, and another body remains to be identified. The following is a selection of messages of sympathy that have been publicly released by numerous leaders and governments around the world.

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Statement by the Prime Minister of Canada

Prime Minister Stephen and His Highness the Aga Khan at the Parliament of Canada.

Prime Minister Stephen and His Highness the Aga Khan at the Parliament of Canada.

“Canada condemns the cowardly terrorist attack on a bus carrying Shi’a Ismaili Muslims in Karachi.

“It is particularly chilling that gunmen opened fire indiscriminately, murdering many Ismailis regardless of their gender or age. It is an affront to everyone who cherishes religious freedom. We urge the Government of Pakistan to bring the perpetrators to justice and to ensure that all religious minorities in the country are protected and their religious freedom guaranteed.

“On behalf of all Canadians, Laureen and I offer our deepest condolences to the families and friends of those who perished in this murderous attack. We also offer our heartfelt prayers that those injured may have a speedy recovery.

“I have worked closely with His Highness the Aga Khan over the years and know first-hand of the peaceful nature of the Shi’a Ismaili community here in Canada and around the world. We mourn with His Highness and the entire Shi’a Ismaili Imamat who have consistently stood for peace, pluralism and religious freedom.”

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Statement by the US Secretary of State

Secretary of State John KerryPress Statement
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC May 14, 2015

“I strongly condemn the heinous May 13 attack on a bus in Karachi, which resulted in the deaths of dozens of members of the Ismaili community.

“The American people stand in solidarity with the people of Pakistan, and with the global Ismaili community on this tragic day. Make no mistake: There is more strength by far in the respect and solidarity that we feel towards one another than there could ever be in any terrorist attack.

“I extend my personal condolences to the families of the victims, and to my dear, esteemed friend His Highness the Aga Khan, who has led the Ismaili community in investing in so many important development and education projects not only in Pakistan, but around the world. We will support efforts to bring all those responsible to justice and stand ready to provide assistance to the investigation of this tragic attack.”

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Statement by Canadian Senator Hon. Mobina S.B. Jaffer

Senator Mobina Jaffer, left, pictured in Kenya.

Senator Mobina Jaffer, left, pictured in Kenya.

“Honourable Senators, I rise today with a very heavy heart. Very early this morning, I awoke to the news that forty- three innocent Ismaili Muslims who were riding a bus in Karachi, Pakistan, were senselessly gunned down by six armed individuals who were dressed in police uniforms. They were my brothers and sisters in faith.

“Sixty-two people were on the bus on their way to a community centre when the gunmen boarded after cutting off the bus with their motorcycles. Once inside, the gunmen shot indiscriminately at the men, women and children. When the gunmen left, an injured individual drove the bus to a nearby hospital. By the time they arrived at the hospital, most of the passengers had died.

“His Highness the Aga Khan, my spiritual leader, stated: ‘This attack represents a senseless act of violence against a peaceful community. My thoughts and prayers are with the victims and the families of those killed and wounded in the attack’.

“Other leaders across Pakistan have expressed their absolute shock at this attack on the Ismaili Muslim community. The Prime Minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif, called it ‘‘a deplorable attempt to spread chaos in Pakistan.’’

Honourable senators, the Ismaili Muslim community is one of the most peaceful and charitable communities in Pakistan. They are involved in a number of development projects across the country and work in all segments of society. Their roots in Pakistan are very deep, as they have inhabited that area of the world for hundreds of years. While the community is small, their positive impact on Pakistan is tremendous.

“As an Ismaili Muslim and as a Canadian, my heart breaks for the victims of this attack and for their families. Many of those killed had Canadian family members. I understand that one Canadian has lost his father, mother and brother. I know you join me in sending our condolences to those Canadians. I know this Chamber will join me in condemning this abhorrent attack on innocent individuals in Pakistan.

“As mine are, I know your thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their loved ones in Pakistan and Canada.”

Thank you.

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Statement attributable to the Spokesman for the
UN Secretary-General

New York, 13 May 2015

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moonThe Secretary-General condemns in the strongest possible terms the terrorist attack today on a bus in Karachi, Pakistan, reportedly killing at least 45 members of the Ismaili community and injuring several others. 

The Secretary-General calls on the Government of Pakistan to take all necessary measures to bring to justice the perpetrators of this despicable act.

Taking note that a number of attacks against the Shia and Christian minorities have taken place in the recent past in Pakistan, the Secretary-General urges the Government of Pakistan to take swift measures aimed at effective protection of religious minorities in the country. Creating a climate of tolerance, understanding and respect will greatly contribute to achieving this objective. 

Pakistan, as a responsible member of the international community, must uphold its obligations and commitments towards protecting its citizens, including all minorities. 

The Secretary-General extends his heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims and to the Government and people of Pakistan.  He wishes a speedy recovery to those injured in the attack.

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Statement by the Iranian Foreign Ministry

Marziyeh AfkhamIran’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marziyeh Afkham, pictured at left, condemned a Wednesday terrorist attack in the Pakistani city of Karachi that killed scores of Shiite Muslims on a bus.

Afkham slammed the atrocity and condoled with the bereaved families of the victims and the Pakistani people and government.

“Extremism and terrorism are against humanity and Islam, and killing innocent people, with any purpose and in any form, is rejected and unjustifiable,” she said.

The objective of such terrorist attacks is to undermine unity in Pakistan, Afkham warned, but expressed confidence that prudence and rapport between the Pakistani government and nation would safeguard stability and security in Irans neighboring country.

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Statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Turkey

Ministry of Foreign Affairs Turkey“We have learned with great sorrow that more than 40 people lost their lives and around 20 others were injured, according to initial reports, as a result of the armed attack perpetrated against a bus carrying members of the Ismaili sect, in Karachi, Pakistan today (13 May) in the morning hours.

“We strongly condemn this terrorist attack. We share the grief of the friendly and brotherly people of Pakistan and express once again our strong feelings of solidarity with the Government of Pakistan.

“We wish God’s mercy on those who lost their lives in this heinous attack, convey our condolences to their families and wish a speedy recovery to the wounded.”

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Statement by the European Union Spokesperson

13/05/2015

“The deadly attack on a bus in Karachi today that has killed at least 43 people and wounded more civilians is a further instance of the scourge of sectarian violence.

“The Pakistani government must do its utmost to tackle sectarian violence and bring to justice the perpetrators of these violent and criminal acts. There must also be no impunity for these crimes. The rights of all citizens need to be protected, regardless of religion or belief.

“The European Union expresses its condolences to the families and friends of the victims.”

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Statement by the Pakistan Consul General in Chicago

Pakistan Consul General

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Statement by US Ambassador to Pakistan

May 13, 2015

us-ambassador-olson“On behalf of the American people, U.S. Ambassador Richard Olson extends his deepest sympathies and condolences to the families of the victims of Wednesday’s heinous bus attack in Karachi, and strongly condemns this senseless terrorist act. 

“The United States remains steadfast in its commitment to the people of Pakistan in their efforts to counter terrorism, and supports the right of every person to worship as they choose, without fear of intimidation, coercion or violence. We support Pakistan’s efforts to bring all those involved to justice and stand ready to provide any appropriate assistance to authorities investigating this tragic attack.”

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Statement by US Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky

US Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky

WASHINGTON, DC – “I was shocked to learn of the devastating attack that brutally and senselessly murdered 43 innocent Ismailis and wounded many others.  They were attacked because of their religious beliefs by militants who are targeting anyone who doesn’t accept their view of Islam.

“I have a significant and highly respected community of Ismailis within my Congressional District, and I work closely with them.  For years I have participated in the Aga Khan Foundation Partnership Walk in Chicago, a walk that symbolizes the Ismaili community’s work to end global poverty, hunger, illiteracy and poor health around the world.  My district is home to two of their houses of worship called Jamat Khana, one in the Edgewater neighborhood of Chicago and the other in Glenview, Illinois. 

“My heart goes out to the families of the murdered and injured, and to the community as a whole which is deeply shaken by this act of terror.  I stand strongly with the Ismaili people, a peaceful people, and all those across the world who reject violence and intolerance.  We must join together as a global community to do everything possible to keep these attacks from happening in the future.”

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Statements from Muslim Organizations in Canada

PLEASE CLICK: Canadian Muslim Organizations Offer Condolences to the Ismaili Community + List of Deceased

Please click on image for Muslim organization statements.

Please click on image for Muslim organization statements.

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MEDIA DISPATCHES AND OPINIONS

Iran’s Press-TV reported that people in the Pakistani-controlled Jammu and Kashmir, home to other Shia communities, observed mourning and held ceremonies in commemoration of the victims.

Pakistan’s Express Tribune, a publication affiliated with the International New York Times (formerly the International Herald Tribune) reported that participants at the Ithad-e-Ummah Conference, organised by the Pakistan Ulema Council (PUC) condemned the massacre of Ismailis in Karachi, and said that the killers have no religion. Among those attending the conference, which was chaired by PUC Chairperson Tahir Mehmood Ashrafi, was the Chief Guest, Azad Jammu and Kashmir’s President Sardar Muhammad Yaqoob, the Shia Ulema Council Secretary General Allama Arif Waheedi, International Islamic Study Council President Mian Abu Bakar, Qazi Kifayatullah, and Dr Allama Shabbir Hassam Mesmi.

In an opinion piece for the same paper, Raza Rumi, editor at The Friday Times, who is currently a visiting fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy in the US wrote:

“The sheer barbarity of the attack on the Ismaili community in Pakistan’s largest and one of the more misgoverned cities shocked the country. It is not the first time that such a sectarian attack has happened. During the past two years, more than a thousand people have been killed in targeted sectarian attacks. However, this was the largest attack on Ismailis. The head of the Ismaili community, Prince Karim Aga Khan, rightly termed the massacre of 43 men and women “a senseless act of violence against a peaceful community”. It is ironic that the Pakistan movement owes its genesis to the contributions of Sir Sultan Muhammed Shah, Aga Khan III who was the founder, patron and the first president of the All-India Muslim League.”

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PEACEFUL REACTIONS IN HUNZA

http://www.Pamirtimes.net reports that the news of the attack created anger among the Ismailis of Gilgit-Baltistan. However, demonstrations that were held in Gilgit, Aliabad (Hunza) and Gulmit (Upper Hunza) were peaceful. The Karakuram Highway was blocked by protesters for several hours today to register protests. Shops and markets remained closed in different parts of Gilgit and Hunza after the carnage in Karachi.

Civil society groups held candle-light vigils in different parts of Gilgit city and Karimabad (Hunza). Photo: Pamirtimes.net

Civil society groups held candle-light vigils in different parts of Gilgit city and Karimabad (Hunza). Photo: Pamirtimes.net

Peaceful protests at a demonstration held in Gulmit village of Upper Hunza against Safoora Chowrangi attack. Photo: Pamirtimes.net

Peaceful protests at a demonstration held in Gulmit village of Upper Hunza against Safoora Chowrangi attack. Photo: Pamirtimes.net

Date posted: Wednesday, May 14, 2015 (20:45)
Date updated: Saturday, May 16, 2015 (09:30), more messages of condolences

We shall continue to post additional material on this page in the days and weeks to come.

Please also visit the latest post Canadian Muslim Organizations Offer Condolences to the Ismaili Community + List of Deceased.

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Please visit the following external links:

Also visit http://www.ismailimail.wordpress.com for links to numerous articles and photos on this tragic event.

We invite our readers to record their messages of grief and sympathy by clicking Leave a comment.

Also please see:

“Together-Ensemble”: The Amazing Aga Khan Foundation Exhibition on 18 Wheels – Interview and Photos

BY ABDULMALIK J. MERCHANT
Publisher-Editor, Simerg

“Development is ultimately about people, about enabling them to participate fully in the process and to make informed choices and decisions on their futures.” – His Highness the Aga Khan, 49th Ismaili Imam speaking in 2013, excerpt on a panel display at the exhibition.

Stephanie in front of the exhibition bus. Photo: Malik Merchant

Stephanie in front of the exhibition bus. Please watch her interview with Simerg, link at bottom of page. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

Launched on April 27th, 2015, at the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat Building by the Honourable Christian Paradis, Minister of International Development and La Francophonie, and Khalil Shariff, Chief Executive Officer of Aga Khan Foundation Canada, the collaborative exhibition of Global Development under the theme “Together” (French “Ensemble”) arrived at the city’s famed Le Breton neighbourhood, located by the new War Museum on Thursday, May 7, 2015 for a 7-day stop over.

I took an opportunity to visit the astonishing bus filled with educational and inspiring exhibits today (Sunday, May 10th), a much cooler day than the previous few days when the temperatures in the city had surged to 30 Celsius, not taking humidex into consideration. While thousands of local Ottawa residents and tourists were enjoying the marvellous and colourful annual tulip festival by Dow’s Lake, hundreds of parents with their children took to the Le Breton grounds to visit the Ottawa International Children’s Festival as well as take a tour of the exhibition in the “Together/Ensemble” bus, just metres away.

Before reaching the Aga Khan Foundation's magnificent Together bus, I was politely confronted by

Before reaching the Aga Khan Foundation’s magnificent Together bus, I was politely confronted by “a past British Monarch” who was measuring my loyalty to her rule. I excelled as a fine citizen, for which she offered to crown me with some kind of an Order named after the Ottawa’s River Parkway, a fine and scenic road running by the Ottawa River one hundred metres behind her! Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

The Together Exhibition Bus just metres away from  activity tents set up  for the Ottawa International Children's Festival. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

The Together Exhibition Bus just metres away from activity tents set up for the Ottawa International Children’s Festival. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

A youth takes the time to view the interactive global map and test out his knowledge. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg

A youth takes the time to view the interactive global map and test out his knowledge. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg

A panel introducing the work of the Aga Khan Foundation Canada and its  founder, Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan. The Aga Khan Foundation offices around the world are now agencies within the Aga Khan Development Network, a global network created by His Highness the Aga Khan to serve millions on this planet in all areas of human endeavour.  Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

A panel introducing the work of the Aga Khan Foundation Canada and its founder, Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan. The Aga Khan Foundation offices around the world are now agencies within the Aga Khan Development Network, a global network created by His Highness the Aga Khan to serve millions on this planet in all areas of human endeavour. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

Children exchange their ideas and thoughts on global matters on these little leaves. They are invited to take away with them any leaf containing the though of another child. When the leaf is cut open at home it contains wild flower seeds that children can plant in their gardens. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

Children exchange their ideas and thoughts on global matters on these little leaves. They are invited to take away with them any leaf containing the thought of another child. When the leaf is cut open at home it contains wild flower seeds that children can plant in their gardens. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

A young child's aspirations and hopes for a better world:

A young child’s aspirations and hopes for a better world: “No hunger, child labour, everyone being treated equally.” Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

Another child, 8 year old Hannah Saikaley, describes her thoughts of helping others:

Another child, 8 year old Hannah Saikaley, describes her thoughts of helping others: “Donating food, money, drinks and clothes and by cleaning the earth.” Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

Another informative section of panels inside the bus. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

Another informative section of panels inside the bus. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

The front of the Togther-Ensemble exhibition bus. Over the next 2 years, the bus will be travelling across Canada to highlight perspectives on Global Developments to thousands of Canadians. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg. perspectives

The front of the Together-Ensemble exhibition bus. Over the next 2 years, the bus will be travelling across Canada and offer perspectives of Global Development to thousands of Canadians. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

The centre panel is the actual width of the bus. The two side panels show the extensions for this bus, giving the exhibition space inside the bus the feel of an actual museum gallery. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg

The back of the Together-Ensemble Bus. The centre panel is the actual width of the bus. The two side panels show the collapsible exhibition extensions on the bus, giving the space inside the bus the feel of an actual museum gallery. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg

Inside the bus, an exhibit. Photo: Malik Merchant/Malik

Voices of Change exhibit inside the bus. Photo: Malik Merchant/Malik

The

The “Together-Ensemble” Exhibition Bus at the Le Breton neighbourhood at the Canadian War Museum grounds. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

A display inside the bus under the theme

A display inside the bus under the theme “Stronger Together.” Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg

Stephanie, coordinating the media on behalf of the Aga Khan Foundation, was eager to participate in an interview with me, though she felt before the interview that she was a little bit nervous. “Simerg is the first media I am talking to,” she explained. But any apprehension that she felt quickly dissipated as she enthusiastically explained the exhibition with all her charm and grace. Please watch her excellent interview by clicking on the link below.

Date posted: Sunday, May 10, 2015.

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We invite your feedback and comments. Please click Leave a comment.

Please also visit the Aga Khan Foundation Canada Website http://www.akfc.ca for more details and schedules about the Global Development Exhibition, which will be touring Canada in 2015/2016.

This piece has been simultaneously published under a different format at Simerg’s photoblog. Please click Photoessay and Interview: Aga Khan Foundation’s Unique Global Development Exhibition on 18 Wheels

Readers’ Reflections and Prayers for Grief-Stricken Syria

The following is a selection of comments received from readers in response to Simerg’s recent posts concerning Syria, namely:

LETTERS

Ya Ali Madad:

Friend, brother… I have so much pain in my heart, I can not write… my tears are bigger than my chances to talk. [We] are united and together to face the barbarism!

Abd an-Nur al-Gharib

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Being an Ismaili Muslim, we all have done bayah of the Imam of the Time and this means we are spiritual children of Mawlana Hazar Imam and he is our father and mother, which connects all murids around the world as Ismaili brothers and sisters.

My deep prayers, wishes, dua, bandagi, and concern for my brothers and sisters in Syria. May our beloved Hazar Imam, the Lord of din and duniya, please bestow his protection upon the jamat and guard them with his hands on their shoulders.

Mawla ease their difficulties, make the Syrian jamats prosperous, and bless them with long, healthy lives as well as abundance of peace and love.

Mawla, it is my humble prayer that with your divine grace and power, the murids facing difficulties are protected. Inshallah, these humble supplications will reach you. Ameen.

Amirali Minsariya

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Difficult times do come in life of an individual or jamat but we must face them with courage and patience. I just want to tell my brothers and sisters in faith dwelling in Salamiyah that you are not alone there; we all are with you and will stand by you and we are ready to help you in any possible way we can.

Rizwan Shariff

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Our prayer is for your peace! It is terrible to perceive that we are unable to help you physically.

Vasila Bozichaeva

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Dear Syrian Brothers and Sisters.

I am writing this to you from USA to let you know that our prayers and good wishes are always with you. May Mowlana Hazar Imam grant all Syrian Murids respite from their troubles and bless them with peace and prosperity.

Karim Hasham

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Ignorant as I am in Arabic, the English version you have given out of this Prayer (Naad-e-Ali) with beautiful Arabic script that sadly I cannot read, but can hear it and share it with our afflicted brethren not just in Syria but also in Bahrain, Iran and more currently with Shia in Sana’a in Yemen. This, the most powerful prayer of Nade Ali in its entirety rings in my ears and jogs my memory of times when I have addressed it to Mowla.

Since our young days our parents taught us lovingly while comforting us. When any of us face tribulations, for Mushkeel Asaan we privately recite it connecting as if on a direct line, a personal phone call to Ali. He is engraved in our hearts; this supplication is embossed deep down in our soul as the SOS, ultimate call out to help us, to our Mowla Ali present our ‘ghat’ closer than our jugular vein. Ginans: ‘Rome rome maaro Shah vase, jem champa phul manhe vaas…avun Janine bhagatai kijiye …’

Enough. Words fail me as I bow down my head in Sujjud with all his created human kind. Thank you for the beautiful gift of ‘Nade Ali’ to us, the victims of atrocities, pain and suffering. Ameen.

Zarinaspeaks

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It is indeed heart rendering and heart wrenching to see such cruelty taking place in Syria. It is my hope and prayer that sanity prevails and may Almighty Allah give strength and courage to the families who have lost their kith and kin and may their souls rest in eternal peace in the world beyond and they attain Jannathul Firdhouse.

Amyn Chatoor

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Ya Ali Madad,

I am Jalal from Salamieh, and I am an Ismaili teacher in the National council. From my side, I believe that your prayers with ours can open the sky for the end of this stupid civil war. So far, I really appreciate your interests and deep emotions about the Ismaili brothers and sisters.

Your brother in faith.

Jalal

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My deepfelt condolences to each and every family who has lost loved ones and intense prayers that Mawla gives you the courage to bear this loss and that Salamiya and indeed Syria returns to peace and tranquility. You are not alone; of that you can be sure! The world Ismailis are with you. You will prevail, inshallah! It must be so terrifying having ISIS at your doorstep! The threat is so very real.

Izat

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I feel extremely saddened by the torture and brutality that the jamat of Syria is facing. Our sincere prayers for their mushkil asan. May the peace and safety soon return to Syria.

Syria jamat please stay strong to your faith. We stand by you in your difficult times.

Nessa

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Time and again, in his farmans of recent years, especially during the Golden Jubilee Mowlana Hazar Imam has said to the jamat to say a silent prayer. Calling the names of the imams, or Prophet Mohammed or Ali. Also the most powerful prayer is the Salwat.
The Syrian jamat is going through a lot of difficult times and we pray for peace to be restored for them. Amen.

Ya Ali Tun Reham Kar, Ya Mowla Tun Fazal Kar, Har Bhala Tun Dur Kar, Mushkil ku Asaan, Mowla Ali.

Shirin Hirji

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Our prayers are with the bravest jamat in the world! May ALLAH protect you from all brutal acts of so-called Muslims. Syria is in our prayers.

Maqsood Ali Khan

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Thank you for the opportunity to interact. The situation is very dangerous in Salamieh. We are tracked in the city from both the east and the west by the ISIS and al Nusra fronts. The soldiers from Salamieh belong to Government force trying to defend. Note that Salamieh is represented by numerous Muslim tariqahs. We have lived peacefully together for many many years. We have some choices including:

1. The hope that Canadian air forces will also play a role around Salamieh;
2. More military support to Salamieh from the regime; and
3. Possible plane evacuation of women and children from the city in case we can’t defend the city any more.

No doubt, there is support to the community from AKDN, but it is like staying here (and dying?). Yesterday the rebels fired 2 missile at Salamieh and 10 people died, with 30 injured.

The world should move to stop this dangerous situation around Salamieh.

Ya Ali Madad

Ali

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Dear brothers and sisters:

Every moment holds love if we connect inside. Like the sea’s calm beneath, God’s strength rules if we submit the tides and ripples of pain to Him in total surrender and say Salwaat or His name in jaap continuously. Ali bolo Munivar jan Ali ke charan chint lao ek man. Solace and peace come from knowing that we are always in His sight even though we may not be able to see Him. This pain is necessary to awaken. Just submit all pain to Him aape uthi shah ne besan dije vira, sohi tamara dharam likhaiya (You get up and have Him sit at the driver’s seat of your heart, your religion is only that much. Ask Him continuously your next step, tauba shukhar madad).

Jal tu Jalal tu , Kudrat no karnaar tu , Har bala taad tu, Mushkil asaan kar tu Ya Ali Ya Ali Ya Ali

With love, prayers, light. We are one soul, we suffer with your suffering too. Rest assured that is true.

Naaz

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Ya Ali Madad,

I am extremely grief stricken to know about my beloved spiritual brothers and sisters along with our little Masoom angles to be the victims of horrendous brutalities of ISIS thugs. May our beloved Mowlana Hazir Imam help the jamat all over to get away with their worldly and spiritual challenges and may GOD bestow them the highest place in Jannah. Let us pray to Mowla to keep all humanity under his gracious custody safe and secure. The humanity is under threat and it is time that we all need to stay united and face them without any fear. They will meet their fate soon and will burn in hell. Their end is near.

Tahira Noor

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Your message has a very deep and touching impact on the Syrian Jamat. Your continuous support and prayers will definitely make a change hopefully.

With Ya Ali Madad

Mahmoud Syria

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Dearest Ismaili parents, brothers, sisters and children:

We are deeply sad for the difficult circumstances you are facing. We might be far but our hearts are heavy with grief. We cannot reach you but we are of the same spiritual parent that makes us pray for you more strongly. Inshallah Mowla will help you overcome this very difficult moment in your lives. Allah bless all the departed souls in eternal peace Ameen.

Nade Ali, Nade Ali. Ya Mawla to madat kar, mushkil assan kar, rahem kar.  Shukr Alhamdulillah.

Ya Ali Madad.

Zeenat Salim

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My prayers for our Syrian brothers and sisters. May Mawla bring peace and security to your homes. May the departed souls rest in peace. Ameen.

Amin Hunzai

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This is beyond troubling. It is like going back to the time of Genghis Khan who committed the same barbaric acts.

Mallee Stanley

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We remember you at this time and pray that peace return to you, your great city and great country. We remember you prayed for us when we were expelled from Uganda. We remember you were beloved of Prince Aly Khan and he of you – “Salamiyah ke pyare, himatwale, tumko lakho salaam”, we used to sing. (Beloved of Salamiyah, the brave one, 100 thousand greetings to you.) How he dashed out over the mountains from Beirut to declare to you that the naas had been passed to Karim al Husseini. May peace be upon him who rests in your city and may peace reign over you again. You are not forgotten.

Vali Jamal

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All I think of is how our beloved Hazar Imam must be feeling. Can you imagine how much this must hurt him? The scariest thing is there doesn’t seem to be an end to this war. In fact, things are just getting worse in so many countries – in Yemen too. Sincere prayers always.

Rashida Rahemtulla

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I pray to Hazar Imam that whatever sewa that I have done, the benefit of that service should go to my brothers and sisters in Syria. Ameen.

Karim Jivraj

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You are very right; with complete faith if one recites Nad-e-Ali; and Inshallah success will be positive. This particular piece of writing made my day.

Manji

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God: Keep and save Syria and defend its good people, culture and its deep history. Ameen, Ameen Ameen. Ya Allah, Ya Muhammad, Ya Ali, defeat its enemies. “There is no hero but Ali; there is no sword but Dhu’lfaqar”.

Hatim Mahamid

Date posted: Sunday, April 26, 2015.

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If you missed the earlier posts, please click on the following links:

We invite our readers to offer their solidarity with the Ismaili jamat in Syria and the people of Syria by conveying their heartfelt wishes and prayers by clicking on Leave a comment or in the comment box below. If you encounter any difficulty in submitting your comment, please email your comment for publication to Simerg@aol.com, subject “Syria.” Please note that we never publish your email address with your feedback, and that you may submit your feedback using a pen name or a partial name, if you wish.